Kim Jung-hyo, staff photographer
The UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) said that the Japanese government’s view that the comfort women issue has been resolved denies the rights of the victims and contended that Japan’s compensation has been inadequate. The comments represent the committee’s final opinion on this issue.
In a post on its website on Nov. 19, the UN committee expressed its regrets about the Japanese government’s opinion that the comfort women issue has been finally and irreversibly resolved. The committee also voiced its concerns about the fact that Japan has not provided adequate compensation to the victims as required by the international convention on enforced disappearances.
The committee said that the Japanese government’s position that the issue had been finally and irreversibly resolved permanently blocks the prosecution of the perpetrators and denies the victims’ right to justice and compensation and to receive a guarantee that such acts will not reoccur and the public’s right to know the truth. The committee also expressed its concerns about the lack of statistical data about the number of comfort women who might have been victims of enforced disappearance and the lack of any investigation or indictment of the perpetrators.
The committee, which reports to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, reviews conditions in signatories to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which prohibits states from abducting foreigners. The committee reviewed Japan at the beginning of this month.
During the review process, the Japanese government contended that the issue of the comfort women had been finally and irreversibly resolved by an agreement that it reached with South Korea in 2015. Japan also argued that it’s inappropriate for the committee to deal with matters that occurred before the convention came into force.
When the Japanese government provided 1 billion yen (US$8.86 million) to the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation that was established in accordance with its agreement with South Korea, it described this as a “donation,” and not “compensation.”
The committee’s announcement recognizes the injustice of the Japanese government’s position and attitude in regard to the comfort women issue.
But the Japanese government expressed regret about the committee’s judgment and assessment and refused to give its assent. Kyodo News quoted an official with Japan’s delegation to international organizations in Geneva, Switzerland, as saying that “the committee’s final opinion is extremely regrettable, being unilateral and based on misunderstandings and bias.” The wire service reported that the Japanese delegation has also lodged a protest with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
In a related story, Kyodo News reported that the Japanese government has resolved to lodge a sharp protest to the South Korean government if the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation is dissolved. Even so, the Japanese government will not say that the dissolution of the foundation constitutes the abrogation of the agreement between the two nations. The Japanese government appears to have concluded that maintaining its position that the comfort women agreement remains valid while urging the South Korean government to implement that agreement would be in its diplomatic interest.
S. Korean prime minister urges Foreign Ministry to adopt sterner stance
As Japan maintains a hardline attitude on issues affecting its relations with South Korea, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon apparently addressed the ramifications of a recent decision by the South Korean Supreme Court ordering that Korean victims of slave labor during the Japanese colonial occupation of the peninsula should be compensated by the companies where they worked. In remarks made during a meeting of senior officials at the Office of the Prime Minister on Nov. 15, Lee reportedly reprimanded the South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ministry responsible for dealing with this ruling, for its passivity and ordered it to make a sterner response.
After the Foreign Ministry briefed Lee on its plan to post an English language translation of the government’s position statement on its website, Lee met with Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun to let him know that that plan was inadequate and to instruct him to make a more aggressive response, officials at the Office of the Prime Minister said on Nov. 20.
Senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded by saying that they had not been reprimanded by the Prime Minister. “The Ministry is actively working with related agencies to prepare countermeasures, but it’s necessary to exercise caution,” they said.
By Cho Ki-weon, Tokyo correspondent, and Park Min-hee, staff reporter, HanKyoReh